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Is Cat Herpes Contagious To Humans

How Is Fhv Infection Diagnosed

Feline Herpes Virus, Type I

In most cases, a specific diagnosis of FHV infection will not be required. The presence of typical signs of URI is enough for a presumptive diagnosis of FHV infection. If a specific diagnosis is required, ocular or oral swabs can be submitted to a veterinary laboratory where the virus can be grown in culture or, more commonly, detected by PCR . Evidence of the virus may also be present in biopsies and can be useful for the diagnosis of FHV-associated dermatitis .

Understanding Feline Herpesvirus And How It Affects Your Cat


There are a lot of potential illnesses your cat might face over the course of its life. One of the most common is feline herpesvirus 1 , a contagious viral infection. Cats that contract FHV-1 most often carry the virus with them for life, which may put them at risk for cold symptoms at random periods.

If your cat has FHV-1, there are certain things you should know about the infection and how to help your cat manage it over its lifetime to ensure lifelong health and mitigate its spread to other cats.

How Can I Reduce Flare

Flare-ups of the cat herpes virus are commonly treated with ointments or eye drops. Your veterinarian may recommend giving your cat amino acid supplements to boost their immune system.

You can also help your cat reduce flare-ups by providing them with a clean, comfortable environment. All bedding and blankets for your cat should be washed regularly. Bowls, trays, and litter boxes should be cleaned daily and kept in an area that is easy for your cat to access.


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Treatment And Management Of Fhv Infections

FHV infections are frequently complicated by secondary bacterial infections, so supportive treatment with antibiotics is usually required. Good nursing care is critical and cats may need to be hospitalised for intravenous fluid therapy and nutritional support in severe cases. Steam inhalation or nebulisation may help in cases of severe nasal congestion and as the cat will not be able to smell food well, using tinned or sachet foods that are gently warmed will help.

Unlike FCV, with FHV infection certain anti-viral drugs are available and can be very helpful in managing the clinical manifestations of disease.

  • Systemic antiviral therapy: Famciclovir is a human anti-herpes virus drug that has been shown to be safe and effective in cats. It can be given by mouth and can be valuable in managing severe acute infections in particular.
  • Topical ocular antiviral therapy: idoxuridine, trifluridine and cidofovir are all human anti-herpes virus drugs that can be successfully used as topical ocular therapy for FHV-associated conjunctivitis and keratitis. Some of these drugs have to be given very frequently and they may be combined with topical interferon to enhance efficacy.

In colonies of cats, any cat showing clinical signs should be isolated if at all possible, and strict hygiene should be ensured with disinfection, and use of separate feeding bowls, litter trays, implements etc, careful washing of hands, use of separate apron etc.

What Are The Clinical Signs Of Fhv Infection

Is there a way to reduce the signs and symptoms of feline ...
  • Acute upper respiratory infection  acute URI is the most common manifestation of FHV infection. Typical signs include conjunctivitis, ocular discharge, sneezing, nasal discharge, salivation, pharyngitis, lethargy, inappetence, fever and sometimes coughing. Signs may last from a few days to a few weeks and shedding of virus typically continues for around 3 weeks. Clinical disease with FHV is generally more severe than that seen with FCV.
  • Keratitis  although relatively uncommon, one manifestation of chronic FHV infection that is seen in a number of cats is conjunctivitis and keratitis . Although keratitis can have a number of different causes, FHV infection causes the development of multiple small branching corneal ulcers and this is considered diagnostic of FHV infection.
  • FHV-associated dermatitis  a rare manifestation of chronic FHV infection is the development of skin inflammation and ulceration. This is most commonly seen around the nose and mouth, but can affect other areas such as the front legs. This is only seen rarely.

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How Else Can I Help Prevent The Disease

If you have multiple cats and one or more are being treated for FCV, then you should quarantine the infected animals and clean food and water bowls, the litter box and other items that may be contaminated with the virus. A dilute bleach solution made up of one half cup of bleach per gallon of water is effective at killing the virus. Cleaning solutions that contain phenol, like Lysol, also are effective, but should not be used around cats because they cause irritation and are toxic. Owners may wish to remove other cats from the home during this period to prevent exposure. The virus will die off naturally after one month.

Cats that become carriers will continue to shed the virus in the home, even after they recover from the infection. Owners may need to re-home carrier cats before disinfecting the home to protect the remaining animals from exposure. 

Whenever you bring a new cat into the home, it is wise to isolate the animal from other cats in the household for one to two weeks while you watch for signs of disease.

How Long Can The Virus Live In The Environment

When saliva or other discharges from an infected cat contaminate the environment, the virus can survive in the material as long as it stays moist. Fortunately the secretions usually dry up in a fairly short period of time, and once the secretion dries up the virus will die. Viral particles that get onto hands or other skin surfaces usually remain infective for about half an hour, while contaminated items such as food or water bowls, kitty litter boxes, blankets, cleaning cloths, and cat toys will be infective as long as the secretions on them remain moist – under normal conditions, the secretions will dry up in a few hours.

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How Can Cat Herpes Be Prevented

Get your cat vaccinated. Starting at about six to eight weeks of age, veterinarians recommend vaccinating your kitten. At one year old, your cat should receive a booster shot and additional booster shots every year after.

Although the vaccine doesnt prevent cat herpes, it can significantly reduce the disease’s severity. 

Is Herpes The Same In Cats And Humans

What is Feline Herpes Virus?

Nope! There are several different strains of herpesvirus, and each one targets a specific species. Humans get human herpes, canines get canine herpes, and felines get feline herpes. There is no cross-infection.

A cat with herpes can only transmit the disease to other cats, meaning you, your family members, and your dog are all safe from contracting feline herpes, and vice versa.

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How Does A Cat Become Infected With Feline Herpesvirus

A cat becomes infected with this virus by direct contact with virus particles. The virus is spread in saliva and in discharges from the eyes and nose of an infected cat. Therefore, an infection occurs when a susceptible cat comes into direct contact with an infected cat, or comes into contact with inanimate objects that have been contaminated with viral particles.

What Is The Prognosis For A Cat Diagnosed With Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis

There is no cure for herpesvirus infections. The therapeutic goal is to reduce the frequency and severity of recurrences. Most cats respond well to medical management of the condition and lead normal lives. Minimizing the chance of infection, ensuring excellent nutrition by feeding a veterinary-recommended diet, reducing stressful situations, and following an appropriate vaccination schedule are your cat’s best defense against this disease.

Contributors: Krista Williams, BSc, DVM; Cheryl Yuill, DVM, MSc, CVH

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What Is Feline Herpesvirus

Feline herpesvirus is an upper respiratory virus, not an STD. The most common type of feline herpes is feline viral rhinotracheitis. What this means for your kitty is much more straightforward. Your cat has the human equivalent of the flu.

  • Runny nose
  • Excessive salivation

If you notice any of these symptoms, call your vet and schedule an appointment ASAP. Herpes is rarely fatal in healthy adult cats but is very dangerous for kittens and older felines. As the virus progresses, eye ulcers, as well as conjunctivitis, sometimes occur. This is a serious symptom that requires a trip to the veterinarian. Ulcers can lead to an infection in the eye, resulting in loss of vision and even loss of the eye itself. Your cat looks cute in its pirate costume, but it doesnt need an eye patch.

Can Humans Contract Cat Diseases

Upper Respiratory Infection Kitten Symptoms

You’re at greater risk of contracting an illness from the person in the next cubicle than of getting a disease from a cat. Most infectious feline diseases affect only cats, just as human ills afflict only people. But some, called zoonotic diseases, can be transmitted between cats and people. Through contact with an infected cat’s feces or saliva, infected fleas or ticks, a person could contract a zootonic disease from an animal. Well look at a few common ones.

Cat Scratch Fever

Known as cat scratch fever or cat scratch disease, bartonellis is a bacterial disease that can be transmitted between animals and humans. Cats usually get it from ingesting flea feces while grooming, or from infected ticks. Humans get it from ticks or when scratched or bitten by an infected cat. If an infected cat licks a human’s open wound, its saliva can also transmit cat scratch fever. Infected cats may run a fever or have swollen glands. Infected humans may get swollen lymph nodes, fever and headaches; these usually get better on their own, though it may take several months. More severe cases require antibiotics. Humans with compromised immune systems face a greater threat from cat scratch fever, and should find out if the cat that bit or scratched them has this disease.


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Prevent toxoplasmosis by keeping your cat from hunting and if you are pregnant, have someone else handle the litter box. However, you dont need to give away your cat.

Ringworm and Rabies

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Complications Associated With The Feline Herpes Virus

The cat herpes virus is the most common cause of conjunctivitis. That, on its own, is uncomfortable but rarely dangerous for the cat. However, it can lead to corneal infections with cloudiness, redness of the eye, and corneal ulcers, which can be very painful. 

These corneal ulcers can, in some cases with the feline herpes virus, cause complications: 

  • Corneal sequestration  
  • Scarring of the eye 
  • Chronic tearing 
  • Entropion  

In the most persistent cases, the above can lead to blindness. This is why it is crucial to notice if your cat shows initial signs of a flare-up of cat herpes . Especially with a history of severe eye infections, you should contact your veterinarian immediately. 

How Cats Get Calicvirus

Feline calcivirus is one of the most common causes of cat cold symptoms. It also is one of the most contagious cat viruses. It is spread primarily by cats coming into direct contact with the nose or mouth secretions of infected kitties. It has an incubation period of 2 to 10 days before symptoms appear, and it even can be caught from a surface. It can live for a month at room temperature, and even longer in the cold. Typically, the infected cat does not show symptoms, making him a carrier. The most vulnerable kitties are those in shelters, where 25 to 40 percent of them are infected.

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Diagnosing Feline Herpes Virus

Although it’s one of the most common causes of upper respiratory disease in cats, feline herpes virus isn’t the only thing that can cause upper respiratory signs in your cat. There are subtle differences, though, and you vet will hone in on a diagnosis of feline herpes virus based on your cat’s symptoms, history, and physical exam.

Your vet may perform a test called a fluorescein stain to check for a corneal ulcer caused by severe keratitis. They may also perform a Schirmer tear test to see if your cat’s tear production is abnormally low.

If you want a definitive diagnosis of feline herpes virus, your vet will need to take swabs of your cat’s ocular discharge, nasal discharge, and/or of the back of their throat. These swabs will be sent to a lab where they will undergo a specialized test called a Polymerase Chain Reaction . This test allows the viral particles to be amplified and thus isolated and identified. However, if your cat isn’t in an active stage of infection, there won’t be any viral particles being shed and this PCR test will be inconclusive.

How Did My Cat Get Herpes

Feline Herpes Virus (201 project)

If your cat was diagnosed with herpes, relax. Your cat wasnt naughty.

Feline herpes, like the flu, is spread by sneezing and saliva. The virus does not last very long in well-ventilated, sunny areas but can survive for days in dark, moist environments. Humans can also transmit the virus to other cats by direct contact. Since cats groom themselves with their tongues, petting a sick cat and then petting your own cat is the equivalent of sharing a drink with someone with the flu.

If you have more than one kitty, the odds are high that both cats have been exposed to the herpes virus. Talk with your vet about preventative care options for your healthy cat.

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Is Feline Herpes Contagious For People

There is no need for people to worry, feline herpes is breed specific and can only infect cats. For cats, however, it is highly contagious and can infect all feline breeds of any size and age.  Because it is so communicable it is able to rapidly spread through a multi-cat home, cattery or shelter and can present one of the most widespread infectious problems that a cat owner will ever have to confront. 

Is My Family At Risk

The upper respiratory infection that is caused by feline viral rhinotracheitis is only infectious to other cats. However, upper respiratory infections in cats can be caused by or complicated by bacterial infections, some of which might be contagious to humans. If you follow good hygiene practices including proper hand washing after handling any cat, you will minimize the chance that you can get an illness from this or any other infectious disease. Consult your family physician if anyone in your family develops signs of a respiratory infection if your cat is ill.

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Diagnosis Of Feline Herpes

Many times, veterinarians diagnose feline herpesvirus on clinical signs alone. Your cat may have a fever and experience coughing, sneezing, depression and lack of appetite. Excess discharge from the eyes and nose is common. Several types of diagnostic tests are available to help diagnose feline herpesvirus, but they are not 100 percent accurate. Left untreated, cats with feline herpesvirus can develop eye ulcerations and pneumonia.

How Do Cats Contract The Virus

Is Cat Pink Eye Contagious To Humans

Feline herpes virus is very contagious and can affect any cat, but young kittens and immunosuppressed cats are more susceptible. It can spread through direct contact with discharge from an infected cats eyes, mouth, or nose. However, cat herpes can also spread through infected material, where a sick cat has come into contact and left discharge on it. 

These infected objects can be anything from litter boxes, food, and water, to beds and hiding spots. A pregnant queen might also pass the virus on to her kittens in the womb!  

As the feline herpes virus is so contagious, it is widespread in places where lots of cats live close together. Especially in catteries and shelters, feline herpes is a common occurrence. 

To make matters even more complicated, most cats infected with the feline herpes virus will become latent carriers. Latent means that they carry the virus but show no symptoms. This isnt an issue for all cats, but some will continue to shed the virus during stressful periods and thereby pose a risk for other cats.

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What Can I Do To Protect My Cat And Myself

Common sense and good hygiene will go a long way toward keeping you, your family, and your cat free of zoonotic diseases.

Here are a few simple precautions:

  • Wash hands before eating and after handling cats
  • Schedule annual checkups and fecal exams for your cat
  • Seek veterinary care for sick cats and cats with lacerations or puncture wounds
  • Keep rabies vaccinations current
  • Maintain appropriate flea and tick control
  • Avoid letting your cat lick open wounds, your face, food utensils, or plate
  • Consider keeping cats indoors
  • Wash cat bites and scratch wounds immediately with soap and running warm water and seek medical attention for cat bites and scratches that show signs of swelling, discharge, pustules, and that are associated with local lymph node swelling
  • Feed cats cooked or commercially processed food
  • Scoop litter boxes to remove fecal material daily
  • Avoid having immunocompromised individuals partake in activities that may prompt cat bites or scratches
  • Periodically clean litter boxes with scalding water and detergent
  • Wear gloves when gardening and wash hands afterwards
  • Cover children√Ęs sandboxes when not in use

What Are The Symptoms Of Feline Ocular Herpes

Herpes-induced eye infections often follow the respiratory infection known as Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis. Squinting, runny eyes and conjunctivitis are actually often displayed as part of the respiratory infection, even when the eye itself has no herpetic lesions. They do not necessarily imply the cats eyes are directly infected.

Your vet will examine your cats eyes in order to determine the presence of the virus-induced lesions in the eye itself. He or she may also test for the presence of the virus in the cats body. When the virus does attack, it multiplies in the eye itself while damaging eye cells and creating lesions. Left untreated, bacteria can then lodge themselves in the lesions and create a secondary and often more serious infection.

Many stray and feral kittens lose their eyesight when a bacterial infection sets in following a viral herpes infection.

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